As we power through the 21st century, it can sometimes feel as though we exist in a perpetual state of busyness. Often, with busyness, comes the inevitable – stress. Whether it’s the stress to perform well at work or in our studies, or to keep abreast of what’s happening in our lives, at some point we may all experience it.
When talk turns to stress, we immediately associate it with negative implications and something we should strive to avoid. In fact, we actually need a good dose of stress to get us moving, enticing us to move forward in our daily lives. However, there is a fine line between having enough stress to motivate without causing too much pressure. The key to good health and wellbeing is finding that very balance that enhances rather than incapacitates us.
Research suggests that at least one in four Australians experience moderate to severe levels of stress1. Think about how often you have heard friends and family say that they are stressed? You’ve probably said it a million times yourself. But what is stress?
Stress is a natural response to a challenging situation, which may be caused by what’s happening around us as well as the demands we place on ourselves. It causes the ‘fight or flight’ response in our bodies that enables us to react to the stressors in our lives. When most people talk about stress they primarily refer to emotional distress, which includes feelings of anger or irritability, anxiety and depression, which is attached to a whole range of physical and physiological responses such as muscular and digestive problems.
If not managed, a build up of stress can lead to health issues such headaches, muscular tension, sleeplessness and a heightened susceptibility to colds and flus. Left untreated, the strain on the body from the symptoms of stress can manifest into serious health conditions leading to heart disease, depression, diabetes, high blood pressure and anxiety disorder.
It’s not all doom and gloom, because when managed, stress can work for you. Every body reacts to stress differently, and while some may cope, others may struggle when confronted with the same issues. The key is in recognising your own limits and implementing strategies to keep you from crossing over that fine line to di-stress.
Here are some simple interventions that you can implement today that can help ease the build up of stress:
- Exercise – whether that’s a heart thumping run or a stroll along the beach or through the bush, whatever it is, get the body moving.
- Sleep – it is recommended that adults need between seven and nine hours sleep a night to allow the body to repair and rejuvenate.
- Eat well – fuelling up on nutritious wholefoods not only boosts the immune system, but also creates calm in a body that’s already functioning in a high state of arousal.
- Share your stress – talk about how you feel, if not to friends and family, to a qualified health professional.
- Explore relaxation – regularly practice meditation, yoga, breathing techniques, tai chi or treat yourself to a massage and time out from your daily routine.
(1: Casey, L PhD MAPS & Pui-Tak Liang, R (ED) MAPS, Stress and wellbeing in Australia survey 2014 www.psychology.org.au/Assets/Files/2014-APS-NPW-Survey-WEB-reduced.pdf Cited 14 Sep, 2015.)